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Revised 27 December 2010

WASHINGTON

According to artifacts discovered at the Marines Rock Shelter in eastern Washington, indications show that humans inhabited the Washington region at least 10,000 years ago.  Numerous Native American tribes called this area home, including such tribes as the Cayuse, Colville, Nez Perce, Spokane and Yakima, who lived in the plains and valleys east of the  Cascade Mountains and the Chinook, Clallam, Clatsop, Nisqualli and Puyallup tribes, who lived along the coastal area.

Washington was  explored by English explorer, Sir Francis Drake in 1579.  Both England and Spain became rivals for its acquisition but neither side made any serious efforts to colonize the efforts until the arrival of Juan Perez in 1774 from Mexico.  Juan Perez discovered the mountain peak now known as Olympus.  Olympus was originally named El Cerro Nevada de Santa Rosalia.

After his arrival, Bruno Heceta and Juan Francisco de la Dega y Quadra  charted the coastline north from California (ca. 1775).  Captain James Cook traveled to the Pacific Northwest in 1778 with instructions to find a waterway that linked the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic on behalf of the English, but bad weather forced him to remain at sea.  Cook did not set foot on shore, nor did he find the mythical "Northwest Passage", but he brought back numerous valuable furs and began what became the huge fur trade that brought numerous later settlers to the area.

In 1792, British naval officer George Vancouver, sailed into Puget Sound.  Like his former captain, he also attempted to find the illusive passage and failed.  In the same year, an American explorer named Robert Gray, sailed into the mouth of the Columbia River, thus giving Americans a claim on the territory to go with the others.  

Spain yielded all claims to this area and the English developed a huge fur trade by establishing trading posts all along the coast and inland rivers.  In order to strengthen American Claims to the territory, Tomas Jefferson sent     Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the region and to establish a westward trail for settlement.  They arrived in Washington in 1805.

Washington was part of the Oregon Territory at first but became a territory in its own right in 1853.  Pioneers began moving into the area in 1855 via the Oregon Trail after settlement with the Indian tribes finally settled their opposition.  This settlement was negotiated by Governor Isaac Stevens.  

With the advent of the railroad in 1883, the commodities of this territory could be sold in the western and Midwestern states.  Washington became the 42nd state of the Union on 11 November 1889 and became the gateway to the Yukon and Alaska when gold was discovered in those areas.

Name Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Adams 1883 Whitman Ritzville
Asotin 1883 Garfield Asotin
Benton 1905 Yakima Prosser
Chelan 1899 Kittitas, Okanogan Wenatchee
Chehalis 1854 Renamed Gray's Harbor in 1915  
Clallam 1854 Original County Port Angeles
Clark 1854 Original County Vancouver
Columbia 1855 Original County Dayton
Cowlitz 1854 Original County Kelso
Douglas 1883 Lincoln Waterville
Ferry 1899 Stevens Republic
Franklin 1883 Whitman Pasco
Garfield 1881 Columbia Pomeroy
Grant 1909 Douglas Ephrata
Gray's Harbor 1885 Original County (See Chehalis) Montesano 
Island 1854 Original County Coupeville
Jefferson 1854 Original County Port Townsend
King 1852 Original County Seattle
Kitsap 1871 Jefferson Port Orchard
Kittitas 1883 Yakima Ellensburg
Klickitat 1858 Original County Goldendale
Lewis 1855 Original County Chehalis
Lincoln 1883 Spokane Davenport
Mason 1864 Sawanish Shelton
Okanogan 1883 Stevens Okanogan
Pacific 1854 Original County South Bend
Pend Orielle 1891 Stevens Newport
Pierce 1853 Original County Tacoma
San Juan 1873 Whatcom Friday Harbor
Sawamish unknown Renamed Mason  
Skagit 1883 Whatcom Mount Vernon
Skamania 1854 Original County Stevenson
Snohomish 1853 Original County Everett
Spokane 1858 Stevens Spokane
Stevens 1854 Original County Colville
Thurston 1853 Original County Olympia
Wahkiakum 1855 Original County Cathlamet
Walla Walla 1854 Original County Walla Walla
Whatcom 1857 Island Bellingham
Whitman 1871 Stevens Colfax
Yakima 1865 Indian and Unorganized Territory Yakima

WASHINGTON RESEARCH LINKS

WASHINGTON GENWEB PROJECT WASHINGTON GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY
WASHINGTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY WASHINGTON VITAL STATISTICS